Chicago Legend, Jerry Bryant started JBTV 38 years ago and hasn’t slowed down. Jerry stops by the Mason Paine Show to speak about what made him start JBTV and what he envisions the future for the show.
For the latest information about JBTV visit: JBTVMusic.com
Follow JBTV on Twitter at: Twitter.com/JBTV
Like JBTV on Facebook at: Facebook.com/JBTVMusic
Like and Follow JBTV on Instagram at: Instagram.com/JBTVStudio
Mason Paine: JBTV’s Jerry Bryant is here to speak about the history of JBTV and what plans he has for the future for his show. Thanks for joining me, Jerry.
Mason Paine: I just have a couple of questions for you. What did you do before you started JBTV?
Jerry Bryant: Oh, wow. You know, I’m an old man now. So, I started out in 1968 with a company called studio 68 that was involved with helping teenagers get into radio.
Jerry Bryant: And that was in Milwaukee at, W O K Y and at WISN. And, I did workshops with a high school. ’cause, you know, I was a high school kid graduating . Wasn’t with new, with junior achievement. So I got involved with that end WTMJ, TV. We did a TV show and I fell in love with TV. As soon as I got into the STV studio, I just loved television since I was a kid.
Mason Paine: Why didn’t you go into a traditional TV, actually joined a TV station. I mean, you just made your own.
Jerry Bryant: Well TV, even back then, there was only three channels, you know, in Milwaukee and even here in Chicago, you know, then four or five, if you can, you know, put the educational stations in there, WTTW.
Jerry Bryant: Everything was very corporate, very big. But I started wanting to do my own thing. I loved music. And I did commercials for many years for like 300 radio stations, with a company called super spots. We did imaging. I worked with Joe Kelly, who is a famous voiceover guy and I was the production guy.
Jerry Bryant: We did all like ELO pink, Floyd, all those, you know, REO, Speedwagon, all those big concerts back in the day. Pink Floyd was the big one we did in the Milwaukee, one of the first open air concert. And, then I moved to Chicago like in 1979.
Mason Paine: Wow. So you were doing a lot of the background work. When did you decide to just start your own station JBTV?
Jerry Bryant: JBTV, came out of, literally it was a hobby cause we would do these radio stations spots, and they would have like Madonna and I’d have a one inch video tape. And on that video tape would be like Peter Murphy and a lot of these other bands. And I go. There’s no. Cause you know, Jane Byrne was the you know, was our mayor at the time we didn’t have cable in Chicago.
Jerry Bryant: So I got involved with doing production for, W G V O channel 66 back when it was a real, ethnic Gar Spanish TV station. And, they had like guns smokes. So I did the promos and in exchange. For the production like Gunsmoke tonight at nine, you know, that kind of stuff. I would do. I want to do JBTV, don’t pay me.
Jerry Bryant: I just played music videos, and that’s how I got started. Along with, I was also, I first started actually in 1984 with a, CAN TV 19, which is the public access channel, which a lot of Chicago famous people were on there. You know, they got their first start there because, there wasn’t the same kind of, you know, anybody can get on public access TV, which is so cool that we have that in Chicago and it’s still exists. Right now.
Mason Paine: Wow. I didn’t know. It still existed. I remember watching it when some guy wanted to help you with your math homework and I would call up and be like, could you help me with my math homework? That was like, besides JBTV. That was the only other one I knew about. But when it comes to the concept of the show, you said you wanted to do music in general. I mean, what, what drove you to that? You could have done anything.
Jerry Bryant: Well, I’m just a music fan. It’s kept me alive all these years. It got me through stage four, colon and lung cancer and open heart surgery, but it wasn’t for music. I don’t think I would have survived all that. Wow. My music’s inspirational. I think everybody liked music and I’m a music lover of all different genres, you know?
Jerry Bryant: I just love love band. So we got so many great bands here in Chicago, and I always felt like, you know, all those new bands, which is what I always focused on, because they need the help. You know, it’s like, you can have all the best music in the world stuck in your closet. But if nobody knows about it, you know, you’ll never be successful at it.
Jerry Bryant: So I wanted to help the underdog bands get their first start on television. And that’s how I started JBTV helping the bands that weren’t on MTV like Peter Murphy. He was a good example. He was so upset. I had him in his studio for an interview. That, MTV wouldn’t play his music, you know, and JBTV did and he says that still gave me inspiration to keep doing music because, you know, you have to have some appreciation, even though you can go out and do tours and have fans, but it’s all the new fans that, these artists really live for. You, know?
Mason Paine: Absolutely. And, you know, for people listening, I want them to know that BTS, I think that was either their first or one of their first us concerts.
Mason Paine: And that’s amazing.
Jerry Bryant: Yeah. It was their first television appearance in America. Nobody cared about them. So you have a good example when you’re new and brand new and you’re just starting out. Nobody cares about you. And, so we had them on JBTV. We had to keep it secret. We called it a secret show because it’s still got out and tons of people showed up and I’m going, did anybody ever hear this band?
Jerry Bryant: And yeah, they were great. And they’re so talented. You know, when they came to our studio, each one of the members of BTS has their own, like escort person that takes care of them, massage therapist, makeup. It was like, they are so pampered and taken care of because, you know, That’s what they do. And they, you know, I remember, while they were there we go, oh, we’re gonna order food. We’ll get pizza on their handler, said no pizza, no pizza, because they wanted to keep them in perfect shape. You know, they, and that’s another thing when they did JBTV, it was the smallest stage. they ever played on and to show you how professional they are and how great they are. They went back to the hotel and, they rented the ballroom with duct tape or something.
Jerry Bryant: They put on the floor to rehearse. What they were going to do on our stage. I sort of said they got them ready, beats. We got BTS ready, for the national scene because, when you go to like Saturday night live or most TV studios, they’re just a small as JBTV stage was. Wow. So, I started got them indoctrinated to American television.
Mason Paine: Why do you think your show is so popular? I mean, you’ve guys have been around for years and decades, but I mean, why this particular show.
Jerry Bryant: I don’t know that we’re that popular, cause I’m still out there, but I always considered us the underdog on television, you know? But I don’t know. We have a loyal following.
Jerry Bryant: We have people that grew up with JBTV. You yourself said you’ve watched some of the early shows,
Mason Paine: right? Yeah, absolutely. That’s the, before MTV, the box, all that it was JBTV it really brought in all kinds of music into my home. You know, you guys did everything. It wasn’t just, you know, rock. It was, you know, classic rock, which wasn’t called classic rock back then, but you know, alternative music, right?
Jerry Bryant: Yeah. Just show you, it shows you how music never, ever, ever dies. It always lived on and each generation can embrace the new music, you know, and that is what makes music so therapeutic and so great for people. It actually is the one thing, music. It’s the one thing that brings Americans together, whether you’re far right or far left or in between music, is that common source.
Jerry Bryant: That’s why music will save. If anything can save our crazy political process in America today, it’s going to be music.
Mason Paine: You know, I’ve, I’ve spoken with a lot of artists and COVID really put a damper on events, put a damper on tours. Did it, affect your businesses at all?
Jerry Bryant: It totally destroyed my studio. Literally it’s, shut us down and I had to get rid of everything.
Jerry Bryant: I’m starting all over again, you know, because I built a really nice studio and that was turned into condos. They sold the building, so they didn’t want to renew our lease. And I sold all my memorabilia off and, I’m starting over.
Mason Paine: Yeah, I heard about that a little bit late. There was auctions off for all of your stuff.
Mason Paine: I was amazed the river north studio. And you decided to do that. Like why, why sell everything off?
Jerry Bryant: Well, you know, I have, you know, a lot of medical bills going through stage four, colon and lung cancer with five surgeries and. You know, chemotherapy and all that. That’s really expensive. It’s, it’s insane.
Jerry Bryant: And I had no insurance, like most people in the music industry, they have no insurance. They’re sort of getting by day by day. It’s not like you have a regular paycheck, unless you go out on tour. You’re not making money on these bands were all stopped in their tracks. I mean, can you imagine getting prepped, like for your show or anything that you do?
Jerry Bryant: You’re all excited. You’re rehearsing, everything’s all put together. And just when the tours booked and he go, the summer’s going to be great. They give you a call by the way it’s canceled because of COVID. I mean, what a let down. The artists were all devastated and they still are including our venues like Chicago’s Metro and the Vic and all these different venues.
Jerry Bryant: They had to go through a big financial crisis, not having shows every night, because unless you’re doing work, that place costs a lot of money. These venues, you know, and the same thing with the band, you have a family, you got five or six members or whatever, plus all your gear you’re paying for. It’s a, with a crazy time.
Jerry Bryant: And I hope it doesn’t resurface now with all these new variants again, you know?
Mason Paine: That was one of my big concerns. Especially when it started opening up, they still wanted to see if you had a vaccination. So there were some people who didn’t even want to go because either they weren’t vaccinated or they didn’t want to disclose if they were not.
Mason Paine: Now I I’m starting to wonder is at this point, should people start moving to the digital side. Where, you know, you just have online concerts. Is that something that in the future you would do?
Jerry Bryant: I would love to open a new studio, a new JBTV performing arts centers, what I’d like to do and get a corporate sponsor like T-Mobile or American express, you know, or maybe the new Twitter owner interested.
Jerry Bryant: But yeah, that guy but, you know, live music is something that it, you know, and one thing about the JBTV experience was. When we had our studio audiences we’d have like 50 to 150 people show up. They’re right there with the artists. It’s not like you’re at a concert venue where you’re not connecting and they get to see the artists do, you know, sometimes a song screw up and they get inside stuff.
Jerry Bryant: And the artists. Mingle with them. It was such a personal experience. And , seeing a band live, there’s nothing better than that. The feel the music, you know, the goose pimples you get when you’re in the audience with your favorite song and the memories that brings back and to hear it loud, I mean, that experience is just so, so magical.
Jerry Bryant: Now TV works too, you know, cause I’m showing the sun, I’m a TV. And I like to capture everything professionally with 10 cameras and, and multi-track audio. So it sounds like the album only with that extra life touch, you know, but live music will never die. It’ll always be there, but, yeah, I’d love to do, you know, open a studio and do all this stuff again and invite people in, you know, to be in our studio audience.
Mason Paine: Is that the future you’re hoping for, for JBTV, just a brand new studio up and running, you think it would be in Chicago again?
Jerry Bryant: Of course where else we are the place to be. We have the best music fans. We got the best venues. And we are in the center. I keep saying JBTV, broadcasting from the center of the universe.
Jerry Bryant: And I feel we’re in the center of it all because when bands come from overseas to tour, they end up in Chicago, you know, pretty much in New York, that’s where they start from. And when they’re in Chicago, we’re so centrally located. They can go any which way and hit some great concert markets.
Mason Paine: Now, a lot of people like to talk about legacy, what they’re leaving behind, what type of legacy do you think JBTV has established already?
Jerry Bryant: Well, I got a 38 years of, archives sitting here at my house right now. I did save that. I saved, you know, when you talk about losing stuff, I didn’t lose the most important part of JBTV. And that was the digital video archive. I have all the concerts we’ve shot, from the early day Siamese dream with a smashing pumpkin’s their first show at the Metro, for that record release.
Jerry Bryant: And I mean, we’ve had just so many, so many great artists on the show and, you know, like Chicago’s twin peaks, local age Fallout Boy, you know, and then we, Taylor Bennett, I’m so happy to see he’s doing good. And, it’s amazing. Cause when Taylor Bennett was on our show, The Rapper’s brother literally, it was his first television appearance and he was like, not in the best shape.
Jerry Bryant: And now he’s like changed. He’s put out he’s in perfect shape and a family man and everything. And it was just so cool having, and then we got such great festivals here, Lollapalooza every year, riot Fest, and this year’s ride Fest is going to be amazing with Nine Inch Nails, My Chemical Romance, The Original Misfits
Jerry Bryant: The Bleachers, you know, where Jack Antonoff on JBTV with his first band Steel Train before he had Bleachers. And that shows you the history of the show, you know, to see the bands change and the move around with different band members. And they go on to bigger and better bands or whatever.
Jerry Bryant: It’s just beautiful. It’s a beautiful time to be alive besides the war and stuff like that. But at least music is there for us.
Mason Paine: I love that, you know, a lot of your own content. I’ve talked to a lot of people that don’t remember as much as you do. And I have to ask you before I let you go, what is your most memorable interview or concert that was at JBTV?
Jerry Bryant: I’ve had so many, it’s hard to say, but John Leyden, who is a hard interviewer, you know, he would always go, you know, I’m not answering this because everybody treated them the same way. But when he came into town, he came to JBTV and he said, one question and I’m outta here. And I’m not gonna say all the different swear words he said around that.
Jerry Bryant: And, we couldn’t get rid of them. I literally my camera man, wasn’t there. So I took the camera. And I did an interview kneeling at John at the head of feet and, which was supposedly the hardest interview. And it turned out to be a beautiful experience with him because we didn’t talk about the same thing.
Jerry Bryant: That, when you go on this press stuff, you know, these artists are asked the same questions over and over and over, and we didn’t talk about any of that stuff. We just was, you know, like we’re doing now, we’re just talking. And I think that’s what makes, communication and JBTV different from other shows.
Mason Paine: Well, Jerry, thank you so much for being here with me. I really appreciate it. For those listening, where can they find out more about you and JBTV?
Jerry Bryant: Just go to our site. I just, all I gotta do is type in Jerry Bryant or JBTV, and you’ll see what happens. And I got to go fund me going now through my medical expenses.
Jerry Bryant: So if anybody out there wants to check that out, I have video updates. I put on there on my progress. So I’m not asking for donations or anything, but it just, you know, it’s just stuff you do to keep going, you know.
Like Mason on Facebook at: Facebook.com/MasonVeraPaine and follow on Twitter at: Twitter.com/MasonVeraPaine. Interested in being a guest on the show or wish to send pitches contact us at: Contact@Masonverapaine.com